April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual violence refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. In the United States, 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime, and nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will experience sexual violence victimization other than rape. With the recent #MeToo movement, sexual violence has never been such a large part of our national conversation. But what about sexual abuse victims whose abusers are not a stranger or an acquaintance? What about victims who are sexually abused by an intimate partner?

This blog post will explore the intersection of domestic violence and sexual assault. By the time you finish reading, you will understand more about this intersection, including seven statistics about about domestic violence and sexual abuse; learn about marital rape; and discover six ways you can take a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault.

How Do Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Intersect?
Perpetrators who are physically violent toward their intimate partners are often sexually abusive as well. Victims who are both physically and sexually abused are more likely to be injured or killed than victims who experience one form of abuse. Abusers assault people of all genders, races, ages, social classes, and ethnicities. Women who are disabled, pregnant, or attempting to leave their abusers are at greatest risk for intimate partner rape.

7 Statistics About Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse
Intimate partner sexual assault and rape are used to intimidate, control and demean victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Intimate partner sexual assault is more likely than stranger or acquaintance assault to cause physical injury.
Between 14% and 25% of women are sexually assaulted by intimate partners during their relationship.
Between 40% and 45% of women in abusive relationships will also be sexually assaulted during the course of the relationship.
Over half of women raped by an intimate partner were sexually assaulted multiple times by the same partner.
Women who are sexually abused by intimate partners report more risk factors for intimate partner homicides than non-sexually abused women.
Women who are sexually abused by intimate partners suffer severe and long-lasting physical and mental health problems, similar to those of other rape victims. They have higher rates of depression and anxiety than women who were either raped by a non-intimate partner or physically but not sexually abused by an intimate partner.

Marital Rape
Marital rape is a rape is committed by the victim’s spouse (as opposed to a non-married intimate partner.) Until 1976, state laws specifically exempted spousal rape from general rape laws. In 1976, Nebraska was the first state to legally recognize nonconsensual intercourse with a spouse is rape. By 1993, all 50 states had either completely or partially repealed their spousal rape exemptions. However, even now, some states still have some form of spousal rape exemptions, and it is often legally considered a different, lesser crime than non-spousal rape. Many Americans do not believe marital rape is actually rape, even though …

Between 10% and 14% of married women will be raped at some point during their marriages.
18% of female victims of spousal rape say their children witnessed the crime.

Marital rape is the most underreported form of sexual assault. Only 36% of all rape victims ever report the crime to police, and the percentage of married women who report a spousal rape is even lower.

6 Ways to Take A Stand Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse
Want to do something about the intersection between domestic violence and sexual abuse? Here’s six ideas to get you started:

Encourage primary care physicians and OB/GYNs in your community to screen women for signs of physical and sexual violence and ask if they are in violent or abusive relationships during regular checkups.
Demand state legislators update rape laws to include marital rape rather than considering marital rape a different crime.
Work with local schools, religious youth groups, and other youth-oriented programs to teach about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships.
Ask local schools and universities to address the issue of sexual violence in their classrooms and through victim assistance programs.
Ask your Members of Congress to support funding for direct surveys and programs created in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Volunteer at your local rape crisis center or state sexual assault coalition.